Posted by: gschloesser | September 23, 2011

Cyclades – Thoughts

A group played Bruno Cathala’s Cyclades last night at our East Tennessee Gamers session.  I wasn’t involved, but chatted with a few of them about it after they were finished.  A few of them inquired as to my thoughts and opinions of the game, but it has been quite some time since I last played.  So, I decided to go back to my review to refresh my memory.  Here are some of the opinions I expressed in my review (which can be read in its entirety here:  CYCLADES REVIEW).

*****

There is a lot to like in Cyclades.  I really enjoy the bidding mechanism, which has been lifted virtually intact from Amun-Re.  It is often a tense process, forcing players to spend more money than they would prefer.  The process is often used to not only attempt to gain the favor of the god a player desires, but to thwart an opponent from gaining the favor of a particular god.  Often, players are seeking the aid of a specific god, as they need his (or her) powers in order to accomplish their goals for that turn.  For example, in order to launch an invasion, the player must have the aid of Ares.  Otherwise, unless a particular mythological creature is available, the player will be unable to move his troops.  So, what a player can do on a particular turn is dependent upon the god whose favor he acquires.  For me, this is the most exciting phase of the game.

The actions phase of the turn is almost anti-climatic.  Most turns, especially for about the first half of the game, simply involve adding a troop or fleet and constructing a building.  Early invasions usually involve grabbing vacant islands or sea trading locations.  As the board fills and buildings appear, however, things can become more militaristic.  However, this usually only occurs late in the game.  There are some opportunities to be creative, especially with the use of the mythological creatures, but so much depends upon turn order and finances.  Several players have expressed frustration in not being able to do what they desire without the aid of a specific god, particularly moving troops or fleets.  I can live with this, but it seems to have bothered other players.

Turn order is SO critical in this game, and often the god a player desires appears lower in the turn order sequence.  This can force the player to alter his plans, particularly if one or more powerful mythological creatures are available at the same time.  This has the effect of prolonging the game, as players put their plans on hold in order to thwart opponents.  Further, a player’s finances can often be drained in the offering process, rendering him unable to afford the actions the god conveys.  These are factors that some consider intriguing, while others deem frustrating.

I’m torn.  At the risk of sounding cliché-ish, I really want to like this game.  The theme is great, and there are numerous aspects of the game I really enjoy.  Unfortunately, the sum of the parts doesn’t produce the results it should.  The actions phase is often quick with little excitement.  There are numerous frustrations that occur, most of which are based on the random order of the gods and appearance of mythological creatures.  The randomness of these two critical aspects makes it difficult to plan ahead, and has been off-putting to several with whom I’ve played.

Other comments from fellow gamers with whom have played have included complaints about the combat being too simple to the system being too constraining.  There is no doubt that the game is easy to learn, which does help make it easily accessible to folks.  However, it is at a cost.  As my good friend and fellow East Tennessee Gamer Trip Godel commented, “It is accessible at the expense of being engaging.”  Ratings from my fellow gamers have not been very positive, with an abundance of “5s” and “6s”.  I fall on the higher end of the scale, as I do enjoy many aspects of the game.  I’m not ready to abandon the Greek isles just yet, lest I incur the wrath of the gods!

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